Owning a puppy is lots of fun but also can be a lot of work. It's not unusual for owners to start to wonder after a few weeks of bringing the pup home when he or she will start to mellow out. The answer has more to do with how your puppy lives and your interactions than an exact age range.
Puppy Maturity Vs. Puppy Calm Behavior
When you ask at what point a certain dog breed will mature, this is an indication of primarily their physical maturation into an adult dog. While this can have somewhat of an effect on their behavior, if a dog's needs aren't being met, you may not see much difference in their overall demeanor. In general, a puppy reaches physical maturity around these age ranges:
Toy and small breed dogs like Chihuahuas can be considered adults around 12 months of age.
Medium-size breeds such as Border Collie reach maturity around 12 to 18 months of age.
Large-size breeds like German Shepherd Dogs reach maturity around 15 to 24 months of age.
Giant breeds like Great Danes can take up to three years to reach "adulthood."
When Do Puppies Calm Down?
While some dog owners, particularly ones with more active, energetic breeds, would like to get a timeline that will tell them definitively when their hyper puppy will begin to mellow out, unfortunately it's not that clear cut. Breeds that were bred to work and engage in a lot of physical and mental activity are more likely to be "hyper" for a long time, but how much and for how long depends on the individual dog and their environment. How you raise your dog and keep him or her occupied each day can have a significant effect on their "hyper" behavior.
Why Are Some Dogs, Even Adults, Hyper?
According to Gail Fisher, dog trainer and behavior consultant and author of The Thinking Dog, how calm and mature a dog will be, "depends on the size, the genetics, the breed, the amount of exercise they get, their diet, how active the family is, and definitely the training they've received." In her experience it's common for a dog owner to ask, "My dog is a year-and-a-half old, shouldn't he be calm now?" but the answer is not that simple. "All of these environmental things in a dog's life really enter it much more and if a dog, especially an active breed like a herding or hunting dog, doesn't have an outlet for its energy, it will never calm down."
Dog Breeds and Maturity
Fisher notes that while this is true for all dogs, there are definitely breeds like the aforementioned herding or hunting dogs that will act hyper well past the puppy stage. This is usually due to the dog living a lifestyle that is not suited to its purpose. For example, a Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever was bred to hunt for hours, running into lakes and through forests, and work side by side with a human. Likewise a Beagle was bred to use its nose to hunt for game and assist his human hunter. Asking these dogs to spend the prime of their young adult lives lying about the house or backyard all day without becoming bored, destructive and worse is an unrealistic, but all too common, expectation.
How to Help Your Dog Calm Down
If you have a dog that is literally bouncing off the walls with energy and this is leading to undesirable behavior like digging, barking, or destructive chewing, don't sit and wait for him to "grow up" and mature. Says Fisher, "If your dog is hyperactive, figure out what you need to do to find outlets for the energy and these outlets should be physical, mental and psychological. The mental energy is training, the physical energy is a combination of training, exercise and activities, and the psychological is your relationship with the dog through training."
Have Appropriate Expectations
It's important when owning a dog to understand what your dog was originally bred for to develop an idea of what sort of exercise and enrichment he'll need each day. If you have a mixed breed, you can look at the different breeds in the mix and use that to get an approximation. A small toy dog that was bred to be a companion animal like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel will probably be quite happy with a small amount of exercise but if you own a Weimaraner and think a five-minute walk around the block once a day will be enough, you can't blame the dog when he starts eating your house out of sheer boredom.
Taking your dog to a puppy socialization class is critical for their growth and development into a behaviorally healthy adult dog. Too often dog owners stop after puppy class and as the puppy hits adolescence, he becomes more and more active and unruly. Bringing your dog to an obedience class during adolescence and adulthood can help to improve his manners, give him an outlet for his mind, and strengthen his bond with you.
Classes Are More Than Just Manners
One of the wonderful things about being a dog owner today is there are so many options if you want to continue to enjoy learning with your dog. You can find classes in trick dog training, dog agility, competitive obedience, scent work, and much more. You can even go on to compete in dog sports events, or just take classes for the fun of being out with your dog doing an engaging activity. If you can't find a class local to you, there are even titles you can earn at home watching videos and training together like a trick dog title. Scent work is another activity you can easily do at home on your own, and if you're handy, you can build some agility equipment and practice with your dog in your yard.
Your dog will need to have his daily exercise needs met and a schedule that is realistic based on his breed. If taking him outside for a jog isn't possible, for example, on a day with inclement weather, there are still ways you can exercise him. You can play fetch with him if you have enough space in your house, or work on obedience cues, or do scent work and train tricks. Mental learning can be just as exhausting as physical exertion. Other ways to exercise your dog physically if you may not be able to do a long run is playing fetch in the back yard, playing with interactive toys such as a flirt pole, and giving your dog the chance to play with other dogs.
"A good dog is a tired dog" is a phrase often repeated by dog trainers. Giving your dog lots of outlets can help keep him tired but happy. Instead of feeding him out of a food bowl, use a food puzzle toy to make him work harder for his meal. Ask him to do things for you in order to get whatever he wants, such as having him sit and stay before going out for a walk, or sitting and offering his paw before he gets a treat or a belly rub. Give him lots of different types of chews as well so he can exercise his jaws and a variety of toys for mental enrichment.
Give Your Dog a Job
Some dog owners enjoy training so much that they become overachievers. While this can lead to dog sports for some, others love training their dog to become a therapy dog and visiting hospitals, hospices, and children's care centers during their free time. If your dog has a personality suited for this type of work, this is an excellent way to give your dog an important job and expend his energy while helping others in need.
Another important facet to keeping a hyper dog from "acting out" is to model the behavior you want to see in him. If your dog is wired, and he sees you becoming agitated and frenzied, his behavior is likely to get worse. On the other hand, if you remain calm and relaxed and keep your tone of voice even, you won't give him anything to react. Taking deep breaths and talking calmly and gently to the dog while asking him to do some learned obedience cues like sit can help to bring a dog's level of energy down in the moment.
When Do Dogs Calm Down?
It's hard to pinpoint an exact time for any breed of dog as to when they'll relax and become "mature adults." You can expect as they get older and approach their senior years that they will indeed start to slow down, but during their adolescent and adult years, a dog that does not receive an appropriate outlet for his energy can remain hyper well into adulthood. It's important to understand what your dog was originally bred for and make sure you give him a lifestyle where he gets the right amount of mental and physical exercise each day in order to be a relaxed, happy adult canine pal.